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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

“Since You Asked”

This may still be going on and I just don’t see it as often, but back in the 70s and 80s pro-abortionists eagerly offered the most incredibly convoluted, what-did-you-just-say? rationales for taking the lives of innocent unborn children. Bizarre analogies were the leading culprits, and there were times (on those occasions when I could follow what they were saying) that I wondered if they could possibly mean what they had just written.


You see some of this in the current “Since You Asked” column that appears at written by Cary Tennis [].


When you read this kind of correspondence to which Tennis is responding, you have to  wonder if anyone can possibly be this shallow.


In this instance, a married couple has planned for kids…some day. In fact that’s perhaps the prime reason the writer tells Tennis she married this guy—“I had a kind of overwhelming feeling that I wanted to have babies with this man, a feeling I'd never had before.”


She tells Tennis that she’s pregnant unintentionally, although she took “Plan B, or the morning-after pill.” What’s really interesting is her next sentence:


“This is also difficult because for a while I've felt something strange -- that my body really longed to be pregnant even though mentally, emotionally, financially I knew that I wanted more time.”


After more excuse-mongering, she concludes with, “Aborting seems difficult and sad, but also right on one level.” Pardon? “[W]e don’t feel ready. We do want more time.” Oh.


[Naturally since the guy’s name is Tennis, I will find it impossible not to use tennis lingo. Forgive me, but I actually think it helps.]


There are no smashing forehands down the line which provide a clear answer. Tennis largely plays serve and volley, patiently examining some of the assumptions that seem to undergird the woman’s correspondence. Some of his attempted returns miss the ball all together while others are hit so badly the ball flies into the grandstand.


For example, he describes this as an issue about timing and uses two analogies to illustrate his point. His first analogy has to do with the lottery and it’s so painfully lame I’ll just skip it. (Except to say that Tennis seems to understand that children can be the ultimate jackpot.)


Analogy two asks whether after having initially chosen not to run for political office, she should switch course when a seat opens up and supporters encourage her to run. “Do you wait until you yourself are completely ready? Or do you take the opportunity that has been handed to you and make the best of it.”


Tennis concedes the analogies are imperfect (no kidding), but does remind her that these analogies help us understand that there are “costs” to postponement. For example, there is a baby already there (“a bird in hand, so to speak”).


Moreover, “in deciding to take actions to avert that future, you must consider the effect that reversing the pregnancy will have on you and your husband.” (That’s a new one on me: “reversing the pregnancy.”)


Tennis then refers his correspondent to a “question posed in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on philosopher Derek Parfit's ‘Repugnant Conclusion.’” (No, I never heard of this either.)


Suffice it to say that Tennis gets tangled up in an aside about the truism that any time a woman “postpones” her pregnancy, the child she would have had at point “A” is a different child than the baby she will have is she gets pregnant at point “B.”


The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry has nothing to do with abortion, as Tennis concedes in the next paragraph. So why bring it up? Oh, well. Tennis then meanders through another aside before coming back to a really interesting idea.


“So it seems to be a matter of degree: your concerns weighed against the gravity of the procedure and your chances of conceiving again at the time you wish to conceive.” Tennis writes. “In considering the matter of degree of severity, let us ask why this option of abortion even exists. Does it exist mainly for the purpose you are considering -- to time the pregnancy?” Indeed, Tennis asks, if that were the main purpose, “would abortion even be legal?”


“Is it not legal because it provides much more fundamental freedoms” than “cur[ing] the inconvenient timing of certain pregnancies?”  (As we know, abortion is legal for even the most trivial of reasons, but let’s not get off course on that.)


Tennis seems to suggest that the present case does not meet the threshold of  “gravity and urgency.” (The woman herself conceded, “This feels like the biggest decision of our life together and we both feel strongly pulled in both directions.”)


But since he has said from the first paragraph on that it’s her decision, Tennis gives her an out: “Or you may consider this use of abortion akin to the off-label use of a drug -- not the one for which it is generally prescribed, but one for which it will be effective and for which, in your case, its use is just.”


“Off-label use”?


Just when you’re ready to blow the guy off, Tennis writes, “Consider this also: How would you feel if abortion were not an option at all? Would you still feel great distress at this news?” Very insightful.


He then draws in some other oldie but baddie justifications for abortion before concluding, “It is your decision. I don't envy you the choice.”


Three quick concluding points. First, Tennis understands that “reversing the pregnancy” does carry potential costs. While he says nothing about the loss to the child—of his or her life--Tennis does recognize that the 30-year-old woman may not “conceive[] again at the time you wish to conceive” (or at all?) and that an abortion could alter the marital relationship.


Second, the entire calculus is changed by the fact that abortion is legal. Law teaches, as we often say about Roe v. Wade, and one of the “lessons” many draw is that even the most minor “reason” for abortion is “reason enough” to take a child’s life.


Third, between the lines, it seems clear that Tennis understands that there is a seriousness to abortion that requires a correspondingly grave “need” to warrant. That is hardly a pro-life position, but it is also a long way from blithefully okaying abortion for any reason or no reason at all.


I would very much encourage you to read the piece. Again, it’s found at


Contact: Dave Andrusko

Source: National Right to Life

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